COO and Vice President of Compass SkyView Hotel, Supranee Sachdev boldly sets her own course.
By Christy Lau
Quick-minded business professional and multitasking family woman are just a few ways to describe Supranee Sachdev, one of the driving forces behind Sukhumvit’s latest trendy luxury accommodation, Compass SkyView Hotel.
Although hospitality was not her first career choice, as she majored in Computer Science and Psychology at Western Illinois University in the U.S., Supranee has settled in her role comfortably and is making waves in the local hospitality scene with the innovative high-rise property.
Redefining accommodation, she, her husband and his family have created a haven for their guests, complete with multiple F&B outlets and lounges, including one of the city’s most stylish rooftop bars Vanilla Sky, as well as what is called Bangkok’s ‘first night club in the sky,’ Vanilla Club. Both of these establishments boast unrivalled views of our bustling city, offering guests an inimitable experience.
Turning her husband’s vision into a reality took a giant leap of faith, and achieving what she has while raising three young children, proves that no challenge is too great for this wonder woman. Supranee shares more about her extensive experience, the secret to balancing her personal and professional life, as well as how she stays focused.
What inspired you to venture into the hospitality industry?
Actually, hospitality was never in my plans. During my undergraduate studies, I worked part time as a technical assistant and immediately realised that I wouldn’t be happy sitting behind a desk. Upon my return home, I worked in the family business for a short period, then went on to pursue my graduate degree in Entrepreneurship Management at Mahidol University.
My husband’s family owned a 15-storey apartment building, where Compass SkyView Hotel stands tall today. It was his vision to build a hotel on this land. And so with all the support from my husband’s family, particularly mentoring from my father-in-law, as well as guidance from a few family members who have expertise in the field, we began our journey and I embarked on a new career path.
In your opinion, why is Thailand a great place for the hotel business?
Tourism is the number one industry in Thailand. Every year, the number of tourists visiting our country increases. Furthermore, Thailand is known as the ‘Land of Smiles.’ Thai people are naturally very hospitable, and since the hotel business is service-oriented, who better to do justice to this industry than the Thais who possess a welcoming and warm nature?
Traditionally, there are more men than women in top management roles. Was this a challenge for you when you first started?
Men and women play various roles in different fields. I must confess, when I first started out, it was really challenging for me, not because I’m a woman but because everything was so new. However, I have always been a keen learner, and I strongly believe that if you put your best foot forward and are not afraid to admit when you have minimal or no knowledge of a particular subject, there is no stopping the acquisition and assimilation of information. People now are also very open-minded. Once they saw my commitment, determination and passion for the development, being a woman didn’t matter.
How is the feminine perspective an advantage when it comes to running a hotel and understanding what guests look for?
As females, we usually pay more attention to detail and are particular about our surroundings. In most cases, we know exactly what we want, and therefore, it is easy to apply this knowledge and understanding to the hospitality world.
When guests stay with us, our job is to make them feel as comfortable as we can. So I always try to put myself in their shoes to understand what they would look for. During my travels, I am also observant of my environment, and constantly look for ways to enhance customer experience at the hotel.
Being a hotel owner is a round-the-clock job. Any tips on how you balance work and personal life?
I’m still figuring out what balance means! Honestly, I don’t have a fixed routine. Each day varies depending upon the needs of family and work.
What’s most important is having a good support system. When the hotel project started out, I was required to work long hours. My children were very young and quite often I was riddled with guilt. Thankfully, my husband and both our families are very hands on when needed. It is comforting to know that the children are in good hands when I have to be away from them.
I also attempt to maintain a healthy lifestyle through meditation and yoga which keeps me calm and focused, and by working out or simply taking a jog in the park to unwind.
Bangkok is filled with hotels. What makes yours stand out from the rest?
Location first and foremost. Compass SkyView Hotel is situated in the heart of Bangkok’s prime shopping and entertainment area on Sukhumvit Soi 24, near Phrom Phong BTS station. The property is also a great choice for discerning travellers with rooms for short and long-term stays, along with exquisite lounges and rooftop bars.
However, none of the above would have much meaning without genuine service. Here we take staff training very seriously and strive to ensure that they remain motivated, so they can deliver the best personalised attention and care to our guests while enjoying their job.
What are some of your most memorable achievements as a hotel owner?
Compass SkyView Hotel won the Now Travel Asia Award for Asia’s Top Design Hotel 2016-2017. That was definitely a proud moment for us, and it was very humbling to see the project recognised on this level.
We have also had the pleasure of working with so many amazing and talented people, and I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the family and management team, to thank each and every one of them for assisting us in making this dream a reality.
What are some of the challenges that come with your role, which most people aren’t aware of?
As women, we have to wear many hats. The real challenge is being able to switch between them.
Personally, my first and foremost role is being a mother. Sometimes this impacts me when I can’t attend meetings or deal with situations in person. Fortunately, everyone in my team is aware of my priorities and they make sure to fill me in if I need to miss anything. There are times, however, when urgent situations require my presence, and my children have come to understand and accept this as well.
What is the most rewarding part of your job and why are you so passionate about the hospitality industry?
I love to meet people, hear about their lives, exchange ideas and learn from their experiences, and my job has brought all that to me. I get to meet people from diverse cultures and have made some valuable friendships and connections. I have also learned and evolved so much in these past years, and hope to continue to do so.
What keeps you motivated every day?
I have the business acumen engraved in my DNA. Growing up, I’ve seen both my parents dedicated to the family’s textile business. In my spare time, I would accompany my mother to their factory and observe the way she interacted with suppliers, customers and employees. She was, and still is, a good role model, and I have taken a lot from those experiences which I apply to my day-to-day working life. Even though I constantly face challenges today, I look at them as an opportunity to learn and grow.
I am also inspired and deeply motivated by my husband. He is constantly encouraging me to move out of my comfort zone. He places an immense amount of responsibility on my shoulders, which in turn forces me to be on my toes at all times.
Last but not least, my children inspire me. I feel it is my responsibility to lead by example so that my children know that they have to work hard to achieve success. Additionally, I strive for balance, so that they are aware that it is not all about work but also some play.
Ultimately, as a hotel owner, you will face unexpected challenges out of your control, such as recessions and PR issues. What do you think is the key to handling these problems?
Having a positive mindset can get anyone anywhere. In my opinion, that’s the most important aspect. Energy is contagious, so if one can hold on to positivity strongly, he or she can influence the entire team.
In addition, working as a team, and listening and respecting others’ opinions is also crucial. No matter the management level, each individual comes with their own unique experiences and can look at a situation from a different perspective. Therefore, the solutions will also be optimal if all angles are taken into account.
The hospitality industry is constantly changing and growing. What trends do you see becoming more relevant in the coming years?
The use of artificial intelligence will gradually dominate this and many other industries.
As far as the hospitality industry goes, we already see mobile devices used for room selection, checking in, issuing virtual key cards and opening guestroom doors. Robots will gradually replace humans for room service,’ laundry deliveries and other services. Online enquiries will be done through AI chatbot. Chinese visitors will soon expect to communicate only through auto-translating internal hotel messaging systems without having to worry about being understood in their native language.
In addition, travellers will require less interaction but more personalisation. So hoteliers will need big data and artificial intelligence to understand behaviour better.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Professionally, I would like to complete all the projects under the company portfolio which are currently in the planning phase. I also aspire to include more projects that contribute to society in each of these developments.
Personally, I deliberately attempt to not make any plans. What has unfolded in my life were not part of my plans five or 10 years ago. I genuinely believe that it is best to trust in the journey, while doing your best each and every day. I just hope that in five years down the road, I am a wiser, stronger and better person than I am today.